Just Like Everyone Else

A short story I wrote for a competition but never made it to the shortlist. Would love critique, whether positive or negative. I think the best way of describing this is to say it considers the concept of life.

Just like everyone else.

The snow was piling up. A perfect white blanket hugging the ground, hiding the green of the grass and conifers that defy the cold and still grow bright and green. The roads were suddenly a death trap, the snow being flattened into ice and letting anyone slide wildly out of control. The sun would barely rise into the sky, venturing out carefully before deciding that it was too cold and running back under the horizon and to the hot countries on the other side of the world. A typical winter like any other.

It was during a typical winter like this one that a baby girl was born, like hundreds of others. This baby looked like any other. The round face and soft skin that seemed to be a little bit too big for her, closed eyes and a small tuft of fuzz planted on top of her head. The parents were married and happy, and as they left the doctors felt happy as another joyous family was made and sent out into the world to learn and love.

This baby slept, cried, whined during the teething stage, was curious, had toys and laughed just like any other baby. Her eyes went from blue to a lovely brown, and her tuft of hair spread over her head and shone like gold. She grew into her skin and her smile would light up her face and the entire room. Just like any other baby.

And this baby grew, learnt to walk and talk, skip, jump, ride a bike, and play with friends. Once she came out of the toddler period and started school her life became slightly different. Her name was Abigail. She was a petite character, her mother liked calling her a ‘little fairy.’ She liked Barbies and Harumika, Hama beads and pink jewellery. Her favourite dress was the purple velvet one with silver sequins along the collar and sleeves and some more that made a flower in the middle of the torso. She always wore it with silver buckle sandals and a silver flower clip in her hair.

But today, her favourite purple dress is at home, and instead she is wrapped up in a thick pink winter coat with fur lining the hood and black suede boots over dark blue tights. A grey woollen hat with pink cat ears sits snugly on her head with matching gloves and a scarf wrapped tightly around her neck in the way only a mother knows how. She is seven at this point, and has been at her friend’s house. They live on the same estate and now Abigail is walking home, being careful while she is walking on the icy pavement with a gift bag with a Christmas present inside. It’s already getting dark and cold and she is dreaming of a hot stew that her dad loves to make at this time of year. He always says that the stew warms you up right to the bones. After tea, she is planning cup of hot chocolate with mini marshmallows in her snowman mug and playing Trivial Pursuit with her parents and big sister. Of course, she knows always win, she always does.

She stops to cross the road, and looks both ways like everyone is supposed to. Completely clear except for a few patches of ice. But Abigail isn’t paying full attention and doesn’t hear the car coming round the corner. She doesn’t know that the car is speeding down the road. Or that it is being controlled by a man who has had five whiskeys too many. The pub landlord tried to stop him but there was a rush for hot pies and pints of lager and the man slipped out without any fuss. Now he is just trying to get home, and he doesn’t notice the icy road that is making his tyres lose grip. And he won’t slow down. He will skid round the corner and slide along the road into the wall that Abigail is standing in front of.

Except a boy turns up, the annoying next-door neighbour called Ben who likes to spray Abigail from over the wall in the summer and throw sugary snacks into her garden to attract bees. In the winter he has to be imaginative, in fact once he went into the garden before bedtime and poured some water onto the patio so it would freeze into a puddle of ice overnight, except Abigail’s dad saw and told Ben’s dad. The next day he was forced to write a letter of apology.

But today there are no parents to tell him off, and he sees her standing at the edge of the road. His eyes narrow on the gift bag and his eyes sparkle with the joy of a perfect opportunity. The gift bag is in her hand, but the fingers are curled loosely around the handles. It would be too easy for him to run over and grab the bag and then disappear. His walking shoes would give more grip than the terrible boots she is wearing, so he could run off while she would either shuffle after him or run and fall over. He could already hear her sounds of frustrations and squirms with pleasure at the thought of getting one over her.

He makes the decision easily and sneaks over silently. She doesn’t look around, her focus is on the road. Ben stifles a chuckle and reaches out for the straps. Again she doesn’t realise he is there. One more movement and he has the bag. Abigail looks up in surprise and her eyes find the culprit standing right in front of her. Ben can’t help but laugh as he watches the confusion in her eyes turn into pure frustration.

“Ben!” He realises then that her voice gets so whiney and high-pitched when she is annoyed. Normally it would grate through his ears but today it sounds like a choir of angels to him.

Ben can’t help but carry on laughing and runs down the pavement. Abigail sprints after him, ignoring the treacherous ice to catch up with Ben and punish him for ruining her good mood. She snatches some snow from the wall as she run past and throws it at his head. It arcs through the air, some falling away but a lump satys intact and…bulls eye. Ben spins around, laughter gone and annoyance making him frown when he sees the dirty red car skid around the corner. His hand flies out towards Abigail as he watches it fly towards her, “Look out!”

Abigail looks around and stares at the metal machine aim at her. Her feet stumble back but in no particular direction. She can’t move out of the way fast enough. The driver doesn’t see her. Fear freezes her like the ice she is standing on. That’s when she feels someone grab the fur-lined hood of her coat and yank her back with all their strength. She slams onto the ice and slides away from the out-of-control car as it crashes side-first into the brick wall with a deafening crunch . The front folds in on itself and the door crumples under the force. A pause of silence, broken by the lights that start going off and an alarm screeching through the streets.

Abigail can do nothing but stare at the wreckage that nearly killed her. She was alive. But how was that possible? The motion of falling plays through her head. No, not falling, she was dragged. By who? She looks away from the wall and sees Ben next to her. She registers that his normally annoying smug face is filled with concern and his cheeks are flushed. She nods and moves to get up, and his arm tries to help her up. They are silent for a second, unsure of what to do. Ben holds out the stolen gift bag with her present inside. A small smile crosses her face and she takes it, nodding to him again to say thanks.

“See you, smelly.” Ben attempts to sneer, but the venom clearly isn’t in his voice.

“Says you.” Abigail counters, but the small smile is still on her face. They walk across the road as adults race to the car to see the damage and the state of the driver inside. It was clear they are trying to make it like the incident had never happened; to make it look like they still hated each other and that it would never change. And yet, when Abigail gets older, whenever she sees him playing football or is about to cross the road in front of that wall, she can’t help but think about that evening. And she knows that she will never be able to forget that the annoying boy next door who ambushed her, made bees attack her garden and stole her stuff was the same boy that had saved her life that dark day so close to Christmas.

The End

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